The civil aviation industry has been busy these past few years setting a number of historical records, including aircraft orders, personnel demand and most importantly – safety. 2012 represented the safest year ever recorded, and with the introduction of an entirely new generation of efficient aircraft, and the continual gravitational shift to the east, the training and simulation sector is evolving in concert. New S&T technology offers “anytime, anywhere” training, and increasingly, the sector is becoming evidence-based and data-driven. CAT Editor in Chief Chris Lehman provides highlights.
In June of this year IATA raised the profit forecast for carriers in 2013 due to better capacity discipline and higher load factors - expected to reach a record 80.3 percent this year - as well as lower than expected fuel prices. But despite 5.3% traffic growth in 2012, carriers are still struggling with wafer thin profitability. Overall global operating profit margins are projected at 3.3% for 2013, with North American airlines forecasted at 4.2% on net earnings of $4.4 billion and Europe at a mere 1.3% on net earnings of $1.6 billion. By comparison, Asian carriers are projected to have earnings of $4.6 billion in 2013.
Major carriers are enjoying stronger profitability than smaller rivals, particularly in the US where industry consolidation will reduce the number of airlines from eight legacy carriers a decade ago to just four as a result of the merger between American Airlines and US Airways. The industry has also witnessed the IAG - Vueling and Continental - United consolidations, and the frenzy is probably not over. And there are other dynamics, including the blurring of the differences between “low-cost carriers” (LCC’s) and “full service” airlines.
With business models fragmenting, the push for efficiency in operations has become the dominant industry characteristic, helping drive the demand for the new generation fuel-efficient aircraft. We would like to say that widespread concern over the supply of qualified personnel has become another dominant industry characteristic, but the evidence is not yet apparent.
Safe and Secure
The 2012 global Western-built jet accident rate of 0.20 is the lowest ever recorded, and IATA has boasted that for their member airlines it was actually zero in 2012. Aviation Safety Network (ASN) President Harro Ranter said: “Since 1997 the average number of airline accidents has shown a steady and persistent decline, probably for a great deal thanks to the continuing safety-driven efforts by international aviation organisations such as ICAO, IATA, Flight Safety Foundation and the aviation industry.” Industry safety performance is laudable, but if there is a negative, it is the fact that the story varies significantly by region.
Africa remains the worst offender, accounting for 22% of all fatal airliner accidents, yet it represents just 3% of aircraft departures. But IATA and the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) are determined to bring the continent’s carriers up to snuff before the deadline to achieve IATA IOSA certification in 2015. Two countries drag down safety - the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan - and account for 50% of Africa’s accidents each year. AFRAA secretary general Elijah Chingosho says conflicts have raged in these countries for a long time, stating “You need security to create an environment where you can have safe operations.”
Runway excursions, in which an aircraft departs a runway during a landing or takeoff, were the most common type of accident in 2012 (28% of total). Most excursions occur when the aircraft floated beyond the normal touchdown point, braking devices did not activate in a timely manner, or because directional control was not maintained. Although the runway excursion accident rate increased in 2012, the five-year trend in accidents is downward, in part because Flight Data Analysis (FDA) programs are increasingly being used to help identify the precursors.
Loss of Control In-flight (LOC-I) is receiving an enormous amount of attention from the industry of late, and training programs are being introduced. In 2012 there were six accidents (compared to 10 in 2010), and these occurrences resulted in the most fatalities (43% of all fatal accidents and 60% of all fatalities from 2008-2012).
Over the last few years, a great deal of work has been done on LOC-I mitigation, and at one point some 18 separate organisations/initiatives were underway. ICAO’s Loss of Control Avoidance and Recovery Training (LOCART) committee of civil aviation authorities received input from the International Committee for Aviation Training in Extended Envelopes (ICATEE). ICAO intends to publish a Manual on Aeroplane Upset Prevention and Recovery by the end of 2013 (essentially a regulator’s handbook for UPRT program quality assurance) which is derived from ICATEE work and also the long-standing Airbus/Boeing/Flight Safety Foundation “Airplane Upset Recovery Training Aid.” The latter advisory document has been updated since it appeared in 1998, but it has not been widely utilized in its entirety despite its relevance. ICATEE also proposed amendments to ICAO Doc 9625 on FSTD Qualification and this should be complete first quarter 2014.
There remain different viewpoints as to the need for an on-aircraft training component at the initial licensing level, as well as in jet transport category operations. And there is concern about simulators being able to model the range of “edge-of-envelope” flight regimes and not introducing negative training, even though there is increasing evidence that “aircraft type-representative” (not type-specific) simulator models are completely adequate for training and should not be cost-prohibitive. Further, there is an emphasis on prevention from regulators, but given the wide range of stall and post-stall dynamics and loss of control scenarios, many believe these should be explored in an integrated program of simulator, aircraft and aerodynamic academic instruction. Automated and “envelope-protected” aircraft offer additional levels of protection, however they are not immune to upsets because of the role of the pilot.
Sunjoo Advani, chairman of ICATEE said “What we see in all upsets is the response of the pilot to an unexpected situation – to startle, to being frozen, to having a loss of cognitive control, of understanding the situation and being able to interact appropriately.”
Aviation Performance Solutions (APS) is one of a number of companies that offers integrated simulator, on-aircraft and academic training in UPRT and recently opened up a new centre in Holland, in addition to their Mesa and Dallas operations, and also has a cooperation agreement with CAE.
Another year, another aircraft order record, with seemingly no end in sight. Airbus won 914 gross orders for the year, and delivered 588 aircraft, shattering their previous record of 534 delivered in 2011. The 2012 deliveries included 103 wide-bodies and 455 single aisle, plus 30 A380s. Some 80% of Airbus orders and deliveries were for A320 family aircraft, and Airbus unveiled plans in July 2012 to construct a final assembly plant in Mobile, Alabama, dedicated to the production of the A320 family of aircraft. This facility is seen as the future “epicenter of commercial activity” for North American operations.
Boeing outran Airbus in 2012, bagging 1,339 orders, and 601 deliveries with the bulk of these - some 70% of deliveries and 88% of orders - for the B737 family. The company delivered 46 of their new generation B787 aircraft, 31 B747-8 and 83 B777.
By the time of the Paris Air Show sales extravaganza in June, it was clear that records would continue to be broken. Airbus and Boeing split about $135 billion in new orders, more than 2.5 times the total orders the companies realised at Farnborough 2012. But if Farnborough 2012 was all about A320neo and B737MAX sales, Paris was all about the new generation of long haul, fuel-efficient and “green” wide-bodies, although hundreds of narrow-bodies were also sold. With fuel costs accounting for half of operating costs, and looming carbon emissions rules such as the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, the race is on to secure the right fleet mix to remain profitable as the industry expands.
Airbus test flew its A350XWB during Paris and Boeing announced a 787-10 stretched version. Boeing received several dozen orders for the 787 during the show and has more than 100 commitments for the 787-10 from five European, Asian and North American customers, which it said it would start delivering in 2018. Airbus secured 69 new orders for the A350, bringing the aircraft’s backlog to 362. Boeing’s total take at Paris was 442 orders and commitments, while Airbus claimed 466.
Other vendors such as ATR also did extremely well with 55 orders, and Brazil’s Embraer launched its new generation of E-Jets, gaining orders for 365 aircraft, led by customers SkyWest and ILFC. The re-engined aircraft, the largest of which can carry 130 passengers, can compete with A320 and B737 narrow-bodies.
Analysts have cautioned that the sales party over the last several years has left Airbus and Boeing with large backlogs and most of the new A350s and B787 jets ordered at Paris won’t be delivered for 4-5 years. Analyst Nick Cunningham in London said the volume of orders “has to come down, partly because of the constraint in supply… if you want to have an A350 or B787 you are going to wait a long time.” And air carriers were warned that too much capacity brought on-line too quickly will drive down fares. The balance is delicate.
Nevertheless, Boeing raised its annual 20 year forecast by 3.8 percent, now projecting a need for 35,280 aircraft worth $4.8 trillion. And despite the recent interest in the new generation wide-bodies, much of the projection continues to be for single-aisle aircraft, the workhorse of the industry.
Randy Tinseth, vice president marketing at Boeing said “There’s no sign of a bubble… every indicator we see in the market says that demand is real and there’s a need to increase production.”
Boeing predicts that 787 Dreamliner production will double to 10 a month by end of the year and the 737 will rise to 42 a month in 2014.
The forecast claims the world’s fleet will double in two decades to 41,000, and anticipates a surge in Asia-Pacific travel, but assumes a downward forecast for Europe and North America. The increase in the forecast reflects strong demand - some 24,670 - for the B737 and A320, with much of that demand coming from Asian carriers. “There’s no doubt the industry’s center of gravity is moving from the US to Asia. Right now, 37 percent of all traffic touches Asia - by 2032 it will approach 50”, said Tinseth.
Simulation & Training
In the last year and a half, the full flight simulator manufacturing “club” has expanded, with new participants from both large aerospace vendors and upstart companies. Most of the FFS “vendors” also provide training services, and it is a growing challenge to segment these two industry components.
It is also difficult to tally global annual “competitive” FFS sales due to the reporting convention of the major players such as CAE whose fiscal year end is March, and because some of this company’s FFS production is destined for its own training centers and joint-venture alliances. There is, however a slow upward FFS sales trend as one would expect given the aircraft sales tsunami of the last five years. The peak was recorded in 2007, with some 55 FFS sold competitively from all vendors. Sales dropped to a mere 27 in 2009. CAT estimates that 2012 competitive FFS annual sales were in the range of 43-45. It’s interesting to note that CAT`s simulator census for the first time now reports China in second place after the US for world simulator installations, with 100 machines.
CAE reported fiscal 2013 sales (end March) at 35 machines, with 15 so far for fiscal 2014 which began April 1. Of those 35 machines, almost two-thirds were for the Asian market, again dove-tailing with the aircraft sales picture and forecast. The fiscal 2014 sales include B737NG, A320 and A330 simulators for Turkish Airlines, Embraer E190, S92 and AW139 helicopter simulators for Azerbaijan Airlines, and seven for Etihad, including 787, A320, A380 and A350.
The company opened another simulator spares depot in Shanghai to support the more than 80 CAE simulators in the country. And CAE continues to expand on the training services side, now boasting 48 global training locations with 225 FFS in that network. The acquisition of Oxford Aviation Academy (OAA) now allows an end-to-end pilot training solution and with CAE Parc Aviation, the company is now engaged in the pilot provisioning market, another growing sector.
FlightSafety International specializes in Corporate and Regional Airline training, and operates 40 international Learning Centers. Its modern simulator manufacturing facility in Broken Arrow, OK, is amongst the world’s most advanced, but much of its production is for the use of its own training centers. It does compete on the open market, and recently bagged orders for an A320 FFS in China to train Tibet Airlines pilots, an Embraer 190 for Aeromexico, and an Embraer 170/190 for Flybe.
L-3’s acquisition of Crawley-based Thales has re-branded the company as L-3 Link Simulation & Training UK, and it is now aggressively pursuing the civil simulation market, particularly in Asia. It has opened a Chinese support centre in Beijing and added a RealitySeven A330 FFS to its Asian Aviation Training Center in Bangkok. There’s a third A320 FFS for Sichuan Airlines on the way, and more A320 FFS’s for Spring Airlines. Further, the company won a RealitySeven B777-300 order for the Boeing Singapore Training Campus, and achieved Level D qualifications for both its British Airways A380 and ANA B777 simulators.
Rockwell Collins is another major US aerospace company that has pushed into the FFS sector, banking on its brand awareness. But it has taken time. Over the last 10 years, Rockwell Collins bought Evans & Sutherland’s visual business, NLX, SEOS Displays, and Blue Ridge Simulation. A joint-venture with Beijing BlueSky Aviation Technology was recently announced, in order to produce FFS for Chinese and global markets. Rockwell has some experience with BlueSky, having previously cooperated on the C919 and the MA60/MA600 programs. Some believe this initiative could give a Chinese company the eventual ability to independently compete on the world stage with western simulator companies.
Yet another large aerospace company that has jumped onto the civil simulation bandwagon is Lockheed Martin, having purchased Netherlands-based Sim-Industries two years ago. With its B737 and A320 capabilities, Lockheed Martin is showing some recent muscle, having won a two B767 FFS contract from FedEx, and an A320 from ST Aerospace Academy based in Singapore and Australia which will be used for MPL primary training. The company is heavily involved in training partnerships and has opened centers in many parts of Asia including Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and South Korea.
Montreal-based Mechtronix has reorganised, and recently was chosen by Boeing for a B737NG device for their Singapore training center, and in early spring delivered a Level D B737NG to SIM Aerotraining. The company has also provided an A320 FFS to low cost Japanese carrier Starflyer, and has enjoyed a long term relationship with CAFUC in China, having supplied several dozen devices, including a Citation CJ1.
Frasca International is generally known for lower order training devices including servicing the US collegiate market, but it too has FFS capability, recently securing an order for a Citation CJ1 machine, from Nanshan International Flight Academy in China. And a surprising new entrant emerged at the Paris Air Show, Belgian-based Venyo demonstrated its B737 simulator which it hopes will serve as the nucleus of a training services business line.
Piloting the Future
There’s no sign of any pullback in the huge pilot demand forecasts CAT has reported on these pages over past years. Many different forecasts have been published but the average is around 23,000 new pilots per year, with Asian demand particularly highlighted as world aircraft fleets triple in that region and double globally.
Over the last 15 years the industry has been bombarded with dire warnings of shortages but they were not realised, mostly due to an external event that “saved” the day, whether it was economic crisis, the SARS outbreak or the relief from the US age 65 rule. But particularly in the last year the forecasts are converging and concern is broadening. Airlines for America forecasts that in the US 60,000 pilots will be needed by 2025 to replace accelerating retirement departures (it’s now five years later), and cover expansion. Captain John Bent, an IATA Consultant, has extensively presented on the subject. “Current spare US training capacity, now used by many airlines in Asia, could become completely absorbed by this US-alone demand,” he said. In China specifically, the CAAC is estimating that 18,000 new recruits are needed in the next two years, by 2015.
In these growth environments, the quality and relevance of training – including selection – is the largest concern. Upset prevention and recovery occupies a great deal of attention as previously stated, and go-around incidents and landing fixation issues have again emerged, but despite the plethora of guidance material on all aspects of training and the large number of stakeholder groups, there is inconsistency in training standards globally, and an uneven mix of prescriptive and competency-based training regimes.
A focus on the complete training footprint, from ab-initio to jet transport qualification, with global acceptance is increasingly understood to be needed, even if few understand how to actually get there. The proven, structured and competency-based Multi-Crew Pilots License (MPL) is a large step forward, and can boast of some success outside of the US with its emphasis on screening and selection, UPRT, Threat and Error Management (TEM) and defined core competencies. MPL does require FFS access, airline sponsorship, and is airline and equipment specific - as a result it is often seen to be less attractive to the US market. About 1,000 candidates have become MPL graduates to date, and the quality of the candidates is encouraging, even if the quantities are limited.
In the US, the long-awaited - and controversial - new First Officer Qualification (FOQ) has come into effect as of August 1, as a result of the 2010 Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act. The rule requires F/Os to hold an ATP certificate with 1,500 hours flight time. It is possible to qualify for a restricted ATP license with fewer than 1,500 hours as the rules stipulate that pilots can serve as second-in-command crew members for Part 121 carriers with “restricted privileges” if they are an ex-military pilot with at least 750 hours total time; be a graduate holding an aviation bachelor’s degree and a minimum of 1,000 hours total time; or hold an aviation associate’s degree and have at least 1,250 hours.
The regulation specifies that pilots flying with restricted ATP licenses (now referred to as an R-ATP) serve as second in command officers only “in domestic, flag, and supplemental operations not requiring more than two pilot flight crew members.” ATP pilots must be at least 23 years old, but the rule also allows pilots who are at least 21 years old to serve as first officers under the restricted privileges section of the rule. Almost immediately, some aviation colleges such as Embry-Riddle issued press releases outlining the benefits of their program in which candidates can receive their ATPs in 1,000 hrs under the exemption, and an aircraft type rating due to their FFS access – all at age 21. But candidates will still have to work as flight instructors for a longer period of time or engage in other flying employment to obtain the required flight hours.
There’s no question the new requirements will shut the door on career opportunities for some low-time pilots and make it harder for airlines to find qualified applicants. US regional carriers have been anticipating these new realities, however, and have largely been able to say they are “ready” for the new environment, even if they cannot forecast what their pilot pipeline will look like in the near future. Roger Cohen, President of the Regional Airline Association (RAA) stated, “As we’ve said all along, the changes will impact the future supply of pilots and could imperil service to 500 communities across the US which rely on regional airlines exclusively….we are hopeful that the FAA will take additional steps to help bring more highly trained aviators…into an airline career.”
The biggest additional step would be to construct pilot training funding schemes. Globally, there is still a lack of access to training funding - although Asian and Gulf countries do better in this regard. Lack of training funding continues to have a negative impact on the attractiveness of the sector. One positive recent development was the introduction in the UK of the Higher Apprenticeship in Professional Aviation Pilot Practice (HAPAPP) which enables aviation training to qualify for government assistance (see CAT 3-2013).
The recent accident in SFO as a result of a late Go-Around focused attention again on crew resource issues, automation overreliance and landing fixation. Only some 3% of unstable approaches result in a Go-Around, and they are usually a surprise to the crew and rarely performed at the briefed missed-approach height. Similar to the issue of UPRT, the opportunity to mitigate these issues is provided with recurrent training, as driven by FOQA data and evidence.
Airline cultures influence how simulator assets are viewed. Are they focused on task-based checking to meet minimum regulatory standards, or are they powerful training mediums that can also be used to “train-out” relevant issues uncovered by operational evidence? Accident patterns clearly indicate that lack of situational awareness, inability to use raw data and continuing overreliance on automation are lingering issues. In the case of the recent SFO accident, the inoperative ILS and clear weather resulted in a visual approach which the crew apparently was unprepared for.
The power of Evidence-Based Training is indisputable, but several training organizations have indicated to CAT that they feel overwhelmed with the volume of training and operational data, as it can be a challenge to prioritize it and find the resources to turn it into mitigating curriculum. Some have suggested that there is an analogy to the childhood game of “whack-a-mole” - we solve one issue and another always pops up. The analogy is unfair, given the high safety performance of the industry, but it reminds us that we are dealing with the symptoms of a much larger issue. That is, the quality and relevance of training, right back to the primary phase. Screening and selection is hugely important, as is a competency-based approach. But the enormous volume of industry and ICAO/national regulatory guidance can be unevenly interpreted and applied, with much depending on the culture of the operator, and his geographic origin.
As a result, there have been renewed calls for global, standardized training for the industry, and one promising outcome has been the creation of the International Pilot Training Consortium (IPTC). IPTC`s mandate is to obtain international agreement on the implementation of ICAO guidance regarding a common set of global pilot training, instruction and evaluation standards. IPTC signatories are ICAO, RAeS, IATA, and IFALPA.
WATS 2013 last April highlighted a discernible and important training trend, and that has been the increasing recognition of the need to focus on training “outcomes” and not the process itself. This view actually extends to the simulator as well - CAT has always maintained that the simulator is merely one of the tools used to achieve the required level of training and human performance. The future holds the promise of these tools being classified by the training outcomes and competencies they deliver, rather than their technical specifications.